Vienna State Opera (Photo Johan Verfring, Wikimedia Commons, above)
Two successive nights at the incomparable Vienna State Opera! Arguably Europe’s greatest opera company in their splendid Empire style opera house, where nearly half the audience stand in semi-luxury, leaning on red velvet covered balustrades, and following the words (in one of several languages of your choice) on little screens under the balustrade. What a perfect way to discover and love opera where you can buy one of nearly 1000 standing places on the day – for three euros each!
But strangely the performances were disappointing. Never less than well sung and beautifully played – after all it’s the Vienna Philharmonic in the pit – the productions of Fidelio and Der Rosenkavalier, both great operas, were old and very conventional. Especially disappointing was the fact that the singer for the key role of the Marschallin in Rosenkavalier had been taken ill, and was replaced by a famous (old) exponent of Brunnhilde in Wagner’s Ring, Linda Watson looking and sounding every inch the stout Wagnerian grandmother in a part requiring the slender elegance and sophistication of a 30 year old princess. In my view it’s a disgrace that a great opera house can present such an embarrassingly inappropriate singer in a leading role.